Could National end up the opposition from hell

Emma Espiner writes at Newsroom:

There has been a lot of attention on the fact that the party with the largest proportion of the votes has always formed the Government under MMP. What hasn’t been considered is what happens if the party with the largest proportion of the votes ends up leading the Opposition.

The special votes conferred an extra two seats to the Labour-Green bloc and took two from National. This means the prospect of a Labour-Green-NZ First coalition could be more likely than it was before that final tally.

Or not.

It could go either way. For me, I’m really am on the horns of a dilemma. Part of me wants to see Bill English lose and then he and his cronies can bugger off. The other part wants me to see Winston choose National and the left wing lose. The second option is appealing because watching the wailing and rioting and “democracy is broken” chants erupt will be hilarious.

Let’s imagine Peters decides to hitch his wagon to the movement for change and Bill English becomes Leader of the Opposition.

Resourcing for research units, parliamentary funding and select committees are all allocated on a proportional basis. This gives National the opportunity to coalesce around the Opposition benches with a level of power and influence we’ve not seen before – if they can remain unified.

Control of almost every select committee would rest with National, not just in chairmanships but in raw numbers.

We’ve seen Labour claw its own eyes out with each successive loss over the preceeding three elections. We’ve come to expect a period of destabilisation within the unlucky major party who doesn’t get to form the Government. Should we expect more of the same from National if they get booted off the front benches?


Not because National are intrinsically more stable or less prone to backstabbing and eye gouging than Labour – on that front you just need to ask Bill English what the aftermath of 2002 was like – but because, united, they could make things so difficult for a ‘progressive’ alliance in Government and they will relish the opportunity to make life hell for the NZ First/Labour/Green coalition. It must privately (or not so privately) rankle some National MPs when people genuinely believe they set out to enter politics specifically to make life harder for our poorest, brownest and least rural folks. There must be a temptation to chuck things like the housing (not) crisis, child poverty and Pike River at someone else and say “Fine. You have a go, I’ve had a guts full.”

Jacinda Ardern has said she entered parliament to get rid of child poverty. Each and every month as statistics roll out we will be able to see how poorly she is doing on that front. Why? Because the measures chosen to beat National with mean there will never be an end to child poverty and National would have that stick to beat a flakey Jacinda Ardern with.

Every question time will start with Does the Prime Minister stand by all her statements?…followed by when she said she would end child poverty why is it that the statistics are getting worse month by month?

There are some political analysts who are picking this election to be the one to lose.
If this transpires and National goes into Opposition, we will see a Monster Opposition – 56 seats – think what that will look like and even sound like – the debating chamber is small, your opponents close, and 56 roaring MPs facing new Labour and Green Ministers will be genuinely testing.

Of course that will be heightened by the power of numbers in Question Time. Questions are allocated on a proportional basis tooincreasing the number of genuine opposition questions and reducing the number of patsies from Government-friendly MPs.

Same goes for select committees – proportionality rules so National’s numbers will be very strong, allowing them to change and stall legislation, perhaps on crucial bills.

Sure the ‘coalition of second, third and fourth place’ will have more numbers overall. That allows them to govern and pass laws if they are always united – but their resources will be divided and often their idea of success will be different too.

There are some political analysts who are picking this election to be the one to lose. My advice for Jacinda Ardern and James Shaw, if Winston Peters decides to side with National is – don’t be too disappointed, it could be a lot worse.

Plenty of things are worse than not being in coalition with National. There is another benefit too, from my perspective. Bill English and his cronies would be gone. No more Bill, Paula, Finlayson, Nick Smith, David Carter or any other acolyte and sycophant. A loss cleans them away.. even possibly Steve Joyce.



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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.